Gomez’s grandfather paints very well too but cannot do so now.

Why is “paints” used here and not painted? I thought it should be painted as the grandfather could not do it now. I thought his ability to paint is in the past so past tense should be used?

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    Where did you see this? Commented Apr 14 at 8:31
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    I saw this question in my daughter’s Primary 1 Grammer Book. I thought the answer should be Gomez’s Grandfather painted very well too but cannot do so now. However, the correct answer is “paints” Commented Apr 14 at 8:39
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    @OrangeZhan You can add this important information by editing your question. Commented Apr 14 at 8:43
  • You are right. It should he painted very well. It sounds like a very bad grammar book. Was it produced locally by a non-native-English-speaking author? The error could be due to ignorance or simply bad editing or checking. My mother played the piano very well but cannot do so now because of arthritis. My dog ran very fast but cannot do so now as he is very old. Commented Apr 14 at 8:51
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    I think that most native English speakers would probably say "Gomez’s grandfather used to paint very well too but cannot do so now." Commented Apr 14 at 10:15

2 Answers 2


It is reasonable to use the present tense, if the intended meaning of "He paints well" is "He can paint well".

Here it is a bit surprising, as it is saying that he has an ability to paint, (for example, he is "artistic") but unable to paint, for probably physical reasons. So my understanding of this is that he is artistic but with age he has lost the ability to hold a paintbrush.

But normally (and the expected form for a book on Grammar) would be "used to paint"


You are correct. The example is bad grammar. If he no longer paints, then it should be "painted", past tense.

We commonly describe things like this with the present tense, but with the intent that it is ongoing. "Bob paints very well." Although it is in the present tense, we don't mean that it is only true at this instant right now. It is true now and has been true for some period of time, possibly decades. Exactly what time period is "present" depends on context. If I say, "This rock in my shoe hurts", I probably mean that it hurts at this instant and has been hurting for perhaps a few minutes. Presumably I would not leave a rock in my shoe for days or months -- I'd take it out. But if I say, "The Earth orbits the Sun", that has been true since the Earth and Sun were created.

But when the context indicates that the statement is no longer true -- as it explicitly says here -- than the present does is no longer correct. It should be past.

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